Predictions and Marketing Knowledge Succession

On January 15th, I attended Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2013. The presentation was delivered at The Carlu in Toronto by Duncan Stewart, Deloitte Canada’s Director of Research.

I enjoy attending events like this for two main reasons. The first is for the content, as it helps me to stay on top developments and trends that impact my clients and the environment in which they operate.

The second reason is for the networking and to possibly meet new people or bump into a familiar face or two. One of the familiar faces I saw after the event belonged to my friend and fellow consultant, Rob Coatsworth. After a quick hello, we decided to go chat over a coffee.

One topic of our conversation was knowledge succession, which is one of Rob’s areas of expertise. Knowledge succession helps organizations to capture, retain and pass on the experience-based knowledge that individual employees accumulate, rather than have the knowledge leave when employees leave the organization.

While knowledge succession is hardly a new challenge, I found our conversation thought provoking because I think the challenge is now greater than ever, and I believe this is especially true for marketers. Here are some reasons why:

General Environmental Factors

Multiple Jobs Per Career. The days of working for one company your whole career and getting the gold watch upon retirement are long gone. Employer/employee relationships are less loyal and have evolved from being career-long marriages to serially monogamous relationships. At some point, either or both parties decide that it’s time to move on and try something new.

Short-Term Financial Pressures. The financial markets exert tremendous pressure on publicly traded companies to hit their quarterly financial targets. Senior executives whose compensation is tied to hitting those financial targets often reduce headcount and salary expense in order to hit those targets. Well paid long service employees, who generally have accumulated the most knowledge are attractive targets to be let go for the expense that can be saved.

Aging Baby Boomers Will Retire. While the impact of this has been delayed by the volatility in financial markets, a large number of highly experienced and long service employees are at an age where they would like to retire if they could, and will when they can, taking their knowledge with them.

Marketing Environmental Factors

Marketers Change Jobs Frequently. Employers value marketers with a range of experiences working on different brands in different categories for different companies. That encourages marketers to keep changing jobs to drive up their marketability and market value.

Accelerating Marketing Complexity and Speed. Marketing is changing rapidly, with innovation, technology and media fragmentation driving much of that change. There are more ways to communicate with consumers and many more touch points along the path to purchase. The pace at which marketers have to execute campaigns leaves them little time between campaigns to measure and learn from past efforts.

Measurement and Marketing Knowledge Succession

Organizations that want to improve their marketing effectiveness need to learn from their successes and failures. That means they need to measure and learn which campaigns are most and least effective, so they can adjust their strategies going forward.

Without an organizational approach to capturing and retaining the lessons learned, it is left to individual marketers to do their own learning. So long as they stay, the organization will benefit but if they decide to leave, the knowledge will leave with them.

The reality is that employees leave and unless companies find ways to learn along with the employees, they are just training their competitors’ future marketing talent. A big step in the right direction is to measure all marketing.

Here’s a five step plan for Marketing Knowledge Succession:

  1. Commit to learning. Broaden your focus on executing marketing programs efficiently and effectively to also include learning from those programs to enhance future strategies and tactics.
  2. Embrace measurement as the key to learning what works and what doesn’t for your brands. Track your success at meeting each campaign’s objectives.
  3. Adopt a measurement methodology that can be applied consistently across brands, programs and time. A consistent methodology will give you benchmarks and a basis for rating and ranking programs.
  4. Measure the things that matter. Choose metrics that indicate whether your marketing is driving profitable customer behaviour and creating value for your business. Keep in mind those Key Performance Indicators that matter to financial markets, owners, investors and business managers and find a way to connect your marketing measurement to the health of the business.
  5. Keep good records. Make sure you have a way to securely collect, store and share the results of your measurement efforts. You’ll be building a knowledge data base that current and future marketers in your organization can use to refine their strategies and execute more effective programs.

Knowledge succession has a medium to long term focus, but committing to it also provides short-term benefits. To be able to aggregate and pass knowledge along, you first have to capture it.

To learn what works and doesn’t work in marketing, you have to measure it, and what you learn can pay dividends on your very next campaign. That will benefit both marketers and their employers, today and in the future.

This is not a prediction, unlike those presented by Deloitte, but I do firmly believe that organizations who commit to marketing measurement and knowledge succession will have a brighter future.


About Rick Shea
Rick Shea is President of Optiv8 Consulting, a marketing consultancy that helps small to mid-sized organizations improve their marketing impact and business outcomes through customer insights, strategic discipline and effective content. Copyright ©2016 Optiv8 Consulting. All rights reserved. You may reproduce this article by including this copyright and, if reproducing electronically, including a link to: http://www.optiv8.com/

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